Inside the Spaceship
Doctor Who - The Edge of Destruction
|ISBN||0 426 20327 5|
|First Edition Cover||Alistair Pearson|
|Back cover blurb: In a final bid to regain control of the Tardis's faulty control system the Doctor is driven to experiment with a dangerous untried combination. With a violent explosion the TARDIS blacks out and the crew find themselves trapped inside. A simple technical fault? Sabotage? Or something even more sinister? Tension mounts as the Doctor and his companions begin to suspect one another. What has happened to the TARDIS? Slowly a terrifying suspicion dawns. Has the TARDIS become the prisoner of some powerful fifth intelligence which is even now haunting the time-machine's dark and gloomy corridors?|
Edge of your seat reading by Andrew Feryok 21/5/13
"How dare you!" she exploded furiously. "Do you realize, you stupid old man, that you'd have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian and I hadn't helped you to escape!... And what about all we went through on Skaro against the Daleks? Not just for you and Susan too - and all because you tricked us into going down to the Dalek City in the first place! Accuse us! You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us! But oh no, gratitude is the last thing you'll ever have. You think you're so superior, so much greater than everyone else, but when are you ever going to realize that other people are worth just as much as you? We might not be as intelligent as you, we might not have experienced as much, but we have feelings. Do you know what they are? It's a concern for your fellow creatures, a belief that no matter what our differences may be we're all in this mess together and we'd better help each other out. We're not just some laboratory animals for you to study, or inferior creatures for you to make use of... But oh no, humility is the last thing you'll ever have - or any sort of common sense!"
- Barbara's extended speech to the Doctor, The Edge of Destruction, Pages 72 and 73, Chapter 6
The Edge of Destruction is definitely one of the weirder episodes of the show. In fact, you could almost see this as being a predecessor to stories like The Celestial Toymaker and The Mind Robber. I mean, when you have as story where the time travelers appear to be going mad, the TARDIS seems possessed, clocks are melting and Susan is going psycho with scissors, you know you are not Kansas anymore! Despite the psychedelic insanity of the story, The Edge of Destruction remains one of the more forgotten stories of the show. A small piece of insanity to be stared at and then shelved for watching later on. I owned it fairly late when it first came out on VHS in the early 2000s and later revisited it on its DVD release, but I can't say I've ever really given the story much thought. However, I was intrigued to see what Nigel Robinson would make of this strange two-part story. Could he fill 120 pages with a story set largely in one location with a small cast and a lot of talking?
The answer of course is yes! Nigel Robinson turns in a brilliant "special edition" version of The Edge of Destruction. He spends most of the book, nearly three quarters of it, focusing on the events of the first episode as he builds up the paranoia and claustrophobia amongst the TARDIS crew. By the time events reach their climax at the end of episode 1, the events of episode 2 then end up breezing by in a flash as events rocket to their conclusion. Robinson's prose style is very easy to read and it's clear that the man is a fan of the show since he takes great delight in weaving continuity from An Unearthly Child and The Daleks so as to tie the events together as if this story was the culmination of a story arc, which essentially it is with the characters of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan.
Robinson's characterization is stunning. Because he only had to focus on four characters, he really spends time expanding them and allowing us to get to know them. This is probably the darkest version of the First Doctor I have read outside of David Whitaker's Doctor in the preceding Doctor Who in An Exciting Adventure with the Daleks. His arrogance and aloofness is played up even more and he literally becomes a villain in his own series here! Robinson adds some nice moments to really play up the suspicion of the Doctor and Susan. They are seen to be whispering in corners to each other and constantly eying Ian and Barbara with suspicion. There is even a new scene where the Doctor and Ian visit the engine room of the TARDIS and it appears that the Doctor has locked Ian in a room to suffocate to death! Although it is later revealed that the TARDIS itself saves Ian, the question is never answered as to whether the Doctor really did attempt to commit murder and this constantly hangs over the Doctor.
There is also some strong characterization for Susan. Robinson plays up her alien half more than any other author I have read. The book opens with an introduction recounting the events of An Unearthly Child and The Daleks, but Robinson subtly alters these events so that it was Susan who wanted to abandon Ian and Barbara on the radiation-soaked world of Skaro and escape in the TARDIS instead of the Doctor. Then as we see Susan seemingly descend into madness, it is not because some force is taking her over (although Robinson does play up this red herring at one point), but because she sees Ian and Barbara as the aliens. As far as she is concerned, they are as strange and alien to her as little green monsters from Mars; as things get more and more desperate, she becomes suspicious that Ian and Barbara are possessed and trying to kill her.
Robinson makes some neat additions to the story as well. They are obviously put in there to pad out the story, but they also serve to showcase the sheer size and wonder of the ship. Chapters 3 and 4 chronicle Ian and the Doctor's journey through endless corridors to the engine room. Along the way, Ian gets separated and lost from the Doctor and has to find his way back. Once they reach the engine room, we get a spectacular vision of the engine room of some Jules Verne/Ocean Liner engine room. All throughout the book, the lights inside the TARDIS have gone out except around key areas of the TARDIS console and the fault locator, which are meant to show them where the fault lies. Instead, they spend the rest of the story creeping around with oil lamps! In Chapter 7, Barbara explores the Doctor's huge laboratory with an oil lamp only to run into what seems to be poltergeists sending books and equipment flying everywhere! In fact, throughout the book we see doors opening and closing, lights flashing to keep the time travelers awake, and other things to make us think that the TARDIS has been possessed. In the end, the Doctor is forced to face the notion that maybe his ship has a form of intelligence and has been helping them to understand the problem at hand in the only way it can, a notion which the Doctor still has a hard time believing by the end of the book.
On the whole, this is a fantastic read. Nigel Robinson has turned in an amazing adaptation of an otherwise forgotten two-episode corner of the Doctor Who series. He expands the story enormously, giving us a deeper look at the TARDIS and its crew. We even get extended dialogue such as an extended version of Barbara's amazingly scalding speech to the Doctor's accusations of sabotage and intrigue (see the quote above). If you are going to explore the Target series, this one is not to be missed. 10/10